The 7 Biggest Lies Your Social Media Consultant Told You


1. Social media is a conversation.

This is almost laughable, but the “conversation” buzzword is still in rampant use.  Social media is not a conversation.  It is conversational and, on occasion, a conversation will happen.  But most of the time social media is listening in aggregate to your fans and followers and responding to trends, broadcasting news and opinions, and responding to urgent requests or to any looming crises.

There is no way that JetBlue is “conversing” with the 1.6 million people following them on Twitter.  There is no way that Starbucks is talking with each of the 19 million individuals who like it on Facebook.  In fact, both of these companies probably have challenges simply monitoring these channels because of the size of the volume.  It isn’t even remotely possible to have conversations when so many people are speaking at and to you.

So dispel this notion.  Social media is mostly marketing and communications (and customer service) where on occasion a conversation will break out.

2. Social media is easy to measure

Only true if you think measuring water in a colander is easy.  Measuring social media is difficult these days.  Heck, most measurement companies can’t even agree on simple things like the number of people who visit your website.  If you ask Compete.com or Google Analytics you’ll end up with two different numbers.  But, for the most part, measuring things like number of followers, number of likes, how many tweets, etc. can be accomplished.  But what does that get you?

What companies really want to measure is impact.  What is our influence?  Did social media help us accomplish our business goals?  Did social media help increase market share or share of voice?  Did it strengthen brand awareness?  Did it help sales?  Did social media strengthen our corporate reputation?  These types of measurements are difficult and need to be customized for each company.  Look at it this way, most companies are still trying to answer these questions for marketing, advertising and public relations.  And now they are trying to figure it out for social media.

3. Every company needs to be using social media.

Nope. Not every company needs to advertise or use public relations either.  I happen to believe those are smart activities, but not every company does.  Companies need to decide for themselves what is best for their bottom lines and their stakeholders.  I happen to believe that companies have great opportunities to use social media to engage and inform their customers, partners, shareholders and the media, but its definitely not for everyone, especially companies that don’t have open cultures.

4. Social media is free (or inexpensive).

It is true that many social media platforms are free.  Anyone with a web connection can create a blog, Twitter account or a Facebook page.  The cost is exactly zero.

But that’s the only thing you’ll get for free.  Creating content – especially creative, lively and sharable content – is difficult and time consuming.  And as we all know: time is money.  There are few, if any, companies doing social media without a significant cost investment.  You need monitoring tools, you need equipment (laptops, smart phones, video cameras, editing software, cameras, design software, development software, etc…), you need workers (hiring, training, salaries, benefits, etc.) and you’ll most likely need to outsource a lot of the strategy and tactics (agency fees, development costs, out of pockets, etc.).

The costs add up – fast. Is it worth it (see #2 and #3 above)?  I happen to think the ROI comes back tenfold – as it does with marketing, advertising and PR.  But every company needs to decide individually what the investment will be and how success will be measured.

5. You need to be everywhere.

No, you don’t.  Don’t even try.  You don’t have to be on Flickr if you don’t use images and photos.  Or YouTube if videos aren’t your thing.  You don’t have to blog.  You don’t need to be on Facebook.  Figure out where your stakeholders are and then set-up a few social media channels so they can find you there.  It is much easier to manage and control a few social assets than it is to open up dozens of them.

6. You can’t outsource social media.

The argument here is always about being genuine.  That it isn’t authentic to have an outsider blog, tweet or update your Facebook status.  Ridiculous, of course.  As long as the brand is being reflected and the voice speaks back to the corporate communications strategy – companies can have whomever they want doing the day-to-day posting and engaging.

Just like companies can outsource legal, public relations, advertising, customer service, home delivery, warehousing, administration, IT, and manufacturing, they can also outsource social media.

7. We have the best social media consultants in the business.

Not quite.  Weber Shandwick has that one wrapped up.  But don’t rely on me – a mere Weber employee to convince you.  Listen to PRNews who awarded us as Digital Firm of the Year in 2010 and Mashable who recently named Weber as one of the four best places to work for anyone in digital and social media (the only agency on the list).

Okay, so maybe that last one is somewhat subjective.

Please feel free to add to the list in the comments or challenge me on any of the other items I’ve listed out.

Links:

Photo by Graeme MacLean (via Flickr)

Mashable: 4 Top Employers for Social Media

5 Reasons Why Brands Should Outsource Social Media

Social Media Isn’t Free

8 Responses to “The 7 Biggest Lies Your Social Media Consultant Told You”

  1. George, my name’s AJ. I’ve been doing the emerging media/Web/’Procial’ media thing for a lotta years in very vertical market segments (primarily in the industrial/tech sectors). I’m about to leave my steady gig to go independent. Despite all of that, please accept this for what it’s worth, from someone that at the least knows the difference between the wine bottle and the wine:

    Your article (The 7 Biggest Lies Your Social Media Consultant Told You) is maybe the best I’ve read in 15 years. It is absolute truth, and it gets right to the point & calls a spade a !^#$^! shovel. Thank you for it. It needed to be said, and it should be shared (and applied) religiously. At least in my opinion. And it likely won’t, because it runs counter to the façade that many consultants have built for themselves to this point. But I’ll sure share it. Rest assured.

    The only point I’d quibble with is number 6, and that’s only because all ‘this’ is evolving into channels directly into the customer service, sales, distribution and marcom segments of organizations. My rebuttal would focus less on ‘authenticity’ than the legacy value of the content created and the capability of those managing those channels to adequately assess the value of prospects and readers interacting through those channels. But that’s not for everyone, and any strategy has to be tailored to the principal’s strengths, goals and market. You made that point well yourself when you wrote earlier that this stuff ain’t free or cheap. Same issue here, in my opinion.

  2. George,

    Nice post as usual. I’m on board with you 78.5%… 🙂 I half-agree with items 1, 6, and 7. I fully agree with the rest.

    For the first one, I think (IMO) you’re playing semantics. Indeed, it is not a 1:1 conversation x 1.6m (in the case of JetBlue). I’ve used this line before, and I meant ‘conversational’.

    You are spot-on re: the outsourcing social media argument is really getting at the authenticity issue. But one thing that’s missed is people in the company directly connecting with customers through digital channels. You can’t outsource that. You can outsource who posts for you, but absorbing that info, engaging in the banter, etc. – that’s the part that needs to be experienced first-hand.

    Weber Shandwick has done well in the social space. I haven’t worked with a multitude of agencies to say whether or not you have it wrapped up.

    Nice list, and a Merry Christmas to you!

    -Alan / @abelniak

  3. Hi A.J.:
    Thanks for your note and good luck to you!

    Hi Alan:
    Well, I hope most people realize that #7 is tongue in cheek. Weber does great work, but we certainly aren’t alone.

    I’m not arguing that employees can’t connect with customers on social channels. Of course they can. Just like they connect with them on the telephone, email and in person.

    I’m talking about official company social media channels. That’s what can be outsourced – and quite successfully. Outsourcing social media doesn’t mean you don’t derive the benefits from it. Just like PR agencies handle your media relations doesn’t mean the reporters don’t have personal relationships with the company spokespeople.

    Merry Christmas to you, too, Alan!

  4. These points are very realistic, sober and measured. Social Media is hard work! It costs money and doing social media well needs to be focused as you said 3-5 channels: no more! SM is not about becoming a full time job but supposed to assist and create the listening platform for companies willing to listen to their customer and environment and above all LEARN and ADAPT! Thank you for a very well written article: please follow me on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/BrunoGebarski

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    […] Only true if you think measuring water in a colander is easy. Measuring social media is difficult these days. Heck, most measurement companies can’t even agree on simple things like the number of people who visit your website. If you ask Compete.com or Google Analytics you’ll end up with two different numbers. But, for the most part, measuring things like number of followers, number of likes, how many tweets, etc. can be accomplished. But what does that get you? ** If you like this post excerpt, please subscribe to their blog. [Read Original Complete Post Here] […]

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